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An Airman’s viewpoint: Air Force developing Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Latanya Reid
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
We're the Air Force's most important asset, a hot topic discussed at every all call, commander's call and in Air Force news publications. Millions of dollars are invested in our development and care annually; we are Airmen.
Of course, at all levels of leadership nothing is stressed more than our development, but what about actions? Since being stationed at MacDill, the outlook of my Air Force career has changed through my interaction with my supervisors at all levels. 

I remember arriving at Tampa International Airport a few months ago with two elephant-sized pieces of luggage and a duffle bag. My thoughts raced; expectations will be high at both ends, mine and my new co-workers'. I stood at the passenger terminal awaiting my sponsor, who kept in contact with me via email and telephone calls from Maryland. A few minutes later she arrived in BDUs. As she approached, reality hit home: "you're in the Air Force now." 

She shook my hand, gave me a hearty welcome and then drove the vehicle to the base which was to be my new home and work station. 

My orientation to the base included a tour of the facilities, such as the BX, Commissary, dining facility and wing headquarters building, where I would be reporting to work. After the tour I was escorted to my dormitory room. Inside there were fresh towels at the vanity, clean sheets on the twin bed, snacks and various niceties. This treatment somewhat quelled my uncertainties before reporting to work the following day. I met the entire 6 AMW staff; they asked questions about my background, discussed my interests and assisted with my integration into the flight. At one point I even felt faint, which may have been due to the drastic change in the temperature from the freezing cold in the north to the sweltering heat here. When I disappeared to go sit for awhile my sponsor followed close behind to ensure my safety. 

A few months later into my job training, our shop went through a major change in management as the photographers merged with Public Affairs. All servicemembers know change in the military is unpredictable and inevitable. My supervisors went through a permanent change of duty station. My new supervisor had arrived during the changes, but managed to bring with him information which I needed to complete my training. He addressed issues regarding getting my training squared away, and the supervisor's responsibilities to their Airmen. 

Fortunately, not only did he bring new ideas to build the PA morale, but he also extended his hospitality by inviting the Airmen in our shop to his home. We met his family, dined and were entertained. This kind gesture definitely renewed my belief in those appointed above me. 

The positives didn't stop there. My experiences further up the chain of command reinforced my favorable view of supervisors and leaders. 

Not long ago during our Operational Readiness Exercise preparation, I was chosen to be the door guard for the wing headquarters building. My job was to restrict unauthorized access into the building during the exercise -- meaning no common access card, no entrance. While some were taken by surprise, especially those who left their CAC in their computers, others were thrilled. But nothing prepared me for what would happen next. My stations was the wing commander's entrance. He approached with his beverage at hand and began to search for his CAC. I offered to hold his cup while he searched his pockets, until he presented the card and was granted access. 

I had expected he would have bid me farewell as everyone who entered, but instead he stopped. He asked whether I was aware of the training scenario. I answered that my knowledge was limited to knowing my task was to deny access to the building to anyone without proper ID. His face lit up. He smiled and explained the exercise in detail. On his way back to his office, he told me he'd get the information for me to read. For a moment I thought he forgot, but before that thought was complete, the exercise planner approached me with the paper. As the wing's head supervisor, the commander's actions spoke volumes about our leadership. It instantly made an Airman first class's choice to join the Air Force worthwhile. 

But it doesn't end. Recently, I interviewed the AMC commander, Gen. Arthur Lichte, during his visit to MacDill. Several weeks of preparation and two dry runs led up to his arrival, which for my first DV interview was nerve wracking. Besides, knowing he was my boss, I couldn't help but think how many Airmen can say they interviewed the new AMC commander. 

The broadcaster and I stood posted at the door of the DV suite preparing to salute and lead him through the door. As expected, we were signaled that he was approaching and prepared for his entrance. After greeting him, he was escorted into the building, where he was excited to begin. At first my hands trembled and my voice quivered. I hoped it wasn't obvious. But as he began to answer the questions, instantly my nerves settled; he became not only the AMC commander, but a voice for Airmen of all levels.
During wrap-up, he was asked what he thought about MacDill AFB. The general unexpectedly motioned for me and the broadcaster to answer the question first. We each responded differently, from which he expanded using the overall feedback from the Airmen he met here. At the end he smiled and said, "I bet you didn't think I was going to ask you?" 

After snapping photos with him, we all wished him a safe trip to his next destination. Not only did he detail the importance of Air Force's priorities through his words, he demonstrated it. 

So far I've learned that in the Air Force we all have someone above us to oversee our development. They are called supervisors, shaping the future of the Air Force through the Airmen under their care. It's not an easy task building up the Air Force's newest servicemembers and to all our exceptional supervisors, you deserve a standing ovation. Those who may feel they have fallen short, it's not too late, especially during the Christmas season. 

Accomplishing the mission of winning the Global War on Terrorism wouldn't be possible without Airmen stepping up to the challenges daily, taking the oath to protect, defend and fight to safeguard our country. It also isn't possible without the supervisors who lead and mentor them. And for the Airmen who feel their supervisors herd them about and it all seems overwhelming, understand supervisors are preparing you for the future. 

For the E-1's to E-4's of today are the supervisors of tomorrow.